Nuwa Nnyanzi, the elegant casual batik artist

Saturday March 12 2016

Nuwa Wamala Nnyanzi , the batik master and his work. PHOTO | COURTESY | ANDERSEN

Nuwa Wamala Nnyanzi , the batik master and his work. PHOTO | COURTESY | ANDERSEN  

By Bamuturaki Musinguzi

Nuwa Wamala Nnyanzi. He is a self-taught artist, founder and proprietor of Nnyanzi Art Studio, a studio-cum-gallery of contemporary and antique African art in Kampala. He established it in 1992 after returning from exile in Nairobi, Kenya where he had lived for 12 years practising art as a full-time occupation.

Nnyanzi is a visual arts practitioner/consultant with a Masters Degree in Design (professional practice) from Middlesex University, UK, and has committed his life to producing, collecting, documenting and promoting Uganda’s rich cultural and natural heritage and that of the Great Lakes region.

He works in batik, pastel, acrylic, oil and water colours that are earthy, vibrant and reflective “of the strong and sweet African sun.”

Through extensive research and experimentation he has managed to come up with a style where more than one dye can be applied to get tones and varied shades with remarkable results.

Nnyanzi is widely travelled and has held solo exhibitions in Africa, the US, Australia, Japan and Europe. He has also successfully represented his country in international art festivals and workshops.

He is also a published writer, poet and one of the pioneer promoters of Uganda’s contemporary music, dance and drama. He is a Rotarian, a life member of the Uganda Red Cross Society and YMCA Uganda.

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What’s your off-duty passion?

I am rarely off duty because my work is both my vocation and hobby. However, I love reading and when I travel abroad I spend a lot of time in libraries, museums and galleries. Did I mention writing and social media? Well, now I have.

What would you have been if you were not an artist and university lecturer today?

Probably a journalist or a lawyer.

What exemplifies your personal style?

Elegant casual. Printed shirts, hats or caps, denim and khaki pants.

How do you manage your wardrobe?

I buy most of my clothes when I travel abroad. I have both formal and casual wear. I love the Cranes’ jerseys and leather shoes.

While in East Africa, where are you most likely to spend your Saturday afternoon?

Kampala, in my studio/gallery surrounded by art, surfing the Internet and talking to people from all walks of life.

Describe your best destination yet in East Africa?

Nyali Beach in Mombasa. The sand, water and palm trees complement the ambience of the hotel.

Do you have a must-visit list?

I would really love to visit the Maasai Mara and see the wildebeest migration.

What is East Africa’s greatest strength? 

Each country has its unique products. Kenya has the legendary safaris with scenic views on the way to game parks, the Rift Valley and Mt Kenya.

Tanzania has the breathtaking Mt Kilimanjaro and the wildebeest migration from the Serengeti National Park.

Uganda has the friendliest people and the mountain gorillas shared with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

What is the best piece in your collection?

I collect art from different artists and my favourite is a water colour on paper portraying elephants in water by the late Massudy (RIP) and a 3D Mandela portrait by Mukiibi.

What’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve received?

A Lalibela Cross and a painting on goat skin from Ethiopia given to me by one of my patrons.

What’s the best gift you’ve given?

Advice.

Which big book you have read recently?

Other than the Life Application Study Bible, which I read daily, there is this other book: Art: Over 2,500 Works from Cave to Contemporary by Iain Zaczek and Mary Acton.

Which film has impacted you the most?

A Piece of the Action starring Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby and James Earl Jones.

What’s your favourite music?

A mixture of traditional and contemporary African music.

What is never missing from your fridge?

Chapati, mango juice, an assortment of fruits and yoghurt plus water of course.

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